Best multipurpose barrier balms to repair your skin

The multitasking creams that nourish skin from head to toe

The Evening Standard's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Outset
Ellie Davis19 March 2024
ES Best

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for hot deals, best buys and expert reviews

I would like to be emailed about offers, event and updates from Evening Standard. Read our privacy notice.

You may have heard the term ‘skin barrier’ bandied about the beauty community.

Repairing the superficial layer of skin (the epidermis) is one of the most discussed topics in skincare right now – videos talking through the term have over 111.7 million views on TikTok. On the platform, videos from skin experts and dermatologists encourage viewers to turn back the clock on the disruption of skin’s delicate balance from external aggressors or harsh ingredients.

But while we can lay off the retinol and slather our face in shielding formulations, we can’t control the climate in which we live (sadly). Winter weather can wreak havoc on the complexion, while summer presents its own set of dehydrating and UV-related challenges. That’s where multipurpose barrier balms will be our friend now and forever.

These soothing, reparative and moisture-enriching compositions may be the antidote to skin stress that leaves it flaking, irritated and chapped. The best of them nourish while encouraging the skin to lock in all-important hydration.

To find out more, we called on Dr Angela Tewari, CeraVe Consultant Dermatologist, to get the scoop on all things skin barrier.

What is your skin barrier?

“Your skin barrier relates to the layers of cells on the surface of your skin and the junctions that hold it in place”, she explains. “It essentially gives you the clinical appearance of different types of skin - glowing, red, acne or dry. It also carries the moisture that can give you that hydrated look but also give you a feeling of youthfulness, comfort and wellbeing.”

What are the causes of skin barrier damage?

Dr Tewari breaks it down: “There are many causes of skin barrier damage that occur from inside of the body and several external too.

“If we think about external causes, environmental factors such as environmental, pollution or dirt, which can cause oxidative stress on the skin, will contribute to skin barrier damage. Also, UV rays from the sun, UVA and B, will cause skin barrier damage.

“If we think about internal factors, being poorly hydrated and poor nutrition are two other factors that will affect your skin barrier. Also, as we age, the skin barrier tends to be held less tightly so the junctions tend to be looser which means damage can get in and the skin cells don’t fit so well together.”

How do you know if you have a damaged skin barrier?

“You’ll know if your skin barrier is damaged by the fact that your skin may look tired or dry. You may have breakouts or acne, or you may have itchy skin”, she says. “Some of these things are genetics so some people may be more prone to getting acne or more prone to getting drier skin, but there are ways of optimising our skin barrier." This leads us nicely onto…

How do you repair your skin barrier?

First and foremost, “You repair your skin barrier by hydrating well”, Dr Tewari stresses. She then highlights the importance of a balanced diet and most importantly, incorporating crucial vitamins through the digestive system (vitamins A, B, C, D and E) – whether that be “by certain vegetables and fruits or by supplements”.

What’s more, Dr Tewari reveals “You can also repair your skin barrier by using the right products”. She references antioxidants, which “are essential but you need to be careful how you use these”. Look out too for “Replenishing moisturising agents so humectants such as urea and glycerin that can really help.”

Shop the best barrier balms below

CeraVe Advanced Repair Ointment


The people asked, and CeraVe delivered. The Advanced Repair Ointment is finally launching in the UK, after sending TikTokers wild. The hugely anticipated unveiling comes after receiving over 22 million views on the social media platform from anxious skincare enthusiasts keen to maximise the dry skin-soothing formula.

Much like the entirety of the New York-born brand’s collection, this ointment was developed in tandem with dermatologists and is a multitasking hydration hero created to support the skin’s barrier and encourage healing.

While you may think that a product of this type would be heavy, medicinal and greasy, this is far from the case, bringing a non-comedogenic composition packed with ceramides and hyaluronic acid to soothe conditions like eczema, psoriasis, general sensitives and dehydration or dryness.

Buy now£14, lookfantastic

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5 Multi-Purpose Repairing Balm 40ml

La Roche-Posay

Soothing sensitive skin is French pharmacy label La Roche-Posay’s bread and butter - and it does so in the most luxurious way possible. Whether you are prone to irritation due to rosacea or eczema, have overused active ingredients or due to menopausal skin dryness, employ the nurturing benefits of this multi-purpose balm.

As a treat to the skin’s barrier, it is formulated with cicaplast and vitamin B5 that care for and fortify it, while also locking in hydration to start repairing on first application. The cream forms a protective layer on the skin against external aggressors and encourages a more effective recovery - all while remaining lightweight enough. It can be used on all skin types, even acne-prone as it’s non-comedogenic.

Buy now£8.50, lookfantastic

Dr Jart+ Cermadin Ecotoin-Infused Cream

Dr Jart+

This deliciously rich whipped cream melts in like a balm; simply warm a pea-sized amount between your palms and smooth it over the face.

Aimed at very dry, flaky and easily irritated skin that needs the comfort of a rich formula without the heavy feeling or residue, the blend of ectoin plus five ceramides will restore balance and calmness. As ectoin works to create and repair the skin’s protective shield that also locks in moisture, it’s reinforced by the ceramides that fill in gaps between skin cells to strengthen the outer layers, plus smoothing and softening argan oil and shea butter.

Expect skin to regain its velvety splendour in days and the pot to be a bathroom staple long after.

Buy now£50, John Lewis

NATURIUM Marshmallow Root Barrier Balm


Don’t be alarmed by the grey shade of this balm, or the inclusion of marshmallow. Not the sweet snack but the plant takes a starring role, an ingredient often used to make medicine and selected for its ability to form a protective layer on the complexion.

Once applied, the shielding coating prevents hydration loss and stressing components from reaching the epidermis. Alongside this, there is also soothing centella asiatica, colloidal oatmeal, arnica and milk thistle – all ingredients known for their moisture-enriching, kind-to-skin properties.

Buy now£27, Space NK

Aveeno Face CALM+RESTORE Ultra Rich Oat Moisturising Balm


Aveeno is known and loved by those with sensitivities for producing products that will not cause irritation or leave skin feeling tight. The signature triple oat complex is set alongside another powerhouse nourishing ingredient in the form of ceramides to give a rich balm texture that is moisturising, smoothing and soothing. It’s fragrance free and ideal for dry, sensitive skin.

Buy now£14.99, Boots

The Outset Botanical Barrier Rescue Balm

The Outset

Scarlett Johansson founded her The Outset label with protecting the skin barrier as the top priority. Across the collection, you’ll find nourishing, moisture-locking formulas but the newer Botanical Barrier Rescue Balm is the multipurpose hero that your skin will thank you for.

Enriched with a cocktail of rose hip, marula and jojoba oil that is set alongside the brand’s signature ingredient, the trademarked Hyaluroset, it’s an ultra-moisturising, hydrating and elasticity-boosting concoction. Apply on the face, body, hands, lips or wherever your skin deserves some TLC. Warm it up in your hand to make it easer to slather on.

Buy now£36, Cult Beauty

Oskia Rest Day Barrier Repair Balm


The luxurious texture of Oskia’s Rest Day Barrier Repair Balm makes for a skincare step you will relish. As you slather your skin in its rich formula, you will be maximising the benefits of colloidal oats, microalgae, lupin seed extract and a blend of ceramides, amino acids and vitamins that feel restorative and reparative as soon as they reach the complexion. Go liberal with application wherever your skin needs it, be it the face, shoulder, knees or toes.

Buy now£68, Sephora

Dermalogica Barrier Repair


Apply the Dermalogica Barrier Repair as your daily moisturiser or a targeted treatment to give your skin the tools it needs to shield against barrier-stressing aggressors. Evening primrose oil and vitamins C and E are the main ingredients, calling on their nourishing and antioxidant benefits in lieu of the inclusion of water. In fact, the formula is anhydrous aka waterless. Instead, it has a balm-like texture that is designed to calm, soothe and repair the skin barrier.

Buy now£54, Space NK

Allies of Skin Molecular Barrier Recovery Cream Balm

Allies of Skin

The price point reflects the advanced technology encapsulated within the Allies of Skin collection. The ingredient line-up reads like a supercharged dream for overstimulated skin to soothe what has been compromised by external aggressors or salon treatments like peels or lasers.

Components that you’ll recognise include soothing ceramides and niacinamide to bring moisture and balance as well as a combination of peptides, black cumin oil panthenol and oat protein. While it is a balm by name, it’s a cream by nature in the way that it sinks into the skin, absorbing speedily and leaving a smooth texture in its wake.

The main and trademarked ingredient is an active dubbed MossCellTec, the first-ever biotechnologically produced moss that harnesses the resilient nature of the plant to your skincare routine.

Buy now£89, Space NK